About Marla A. Madison
Year first published: 2011
Number of books and short stories currently published: 3 suspense novels.
Bio: I’m a retired mediator and now work part-time as an arbitrator. I started writing after I retired and only became serious about it when I joined a critique group of local authors. I discovered that I’m not the kind of person who can just kick back and live the quiet life, I need to have a goal, and writing has given me one. The ultimate goal, of course, is to sell a lot of books by becoming a good writer. Like any skill, writing takes work and practice, so I try to write at least two pages a day. I can see I’m improving with each new work, and that’s a great feeling. Writing, publishing, and marketing are difficult but excellent for keeping that brain active and healthy.
My other interests are playing bridge, golfing, reading, and walking with my dog.
To get on my mailing list and keep up with my weekly blogs for writers and readers, connect with me at, http://marlamadison.blogspot.com
Or, reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since we last met…
Your first novel, She’s Not There, which was published a few months before our first interview, has so far earned 4.3 out of 5 stars from 335 reviews! Those are numbers that many authors would (very much) like to see posted next to their own books. What do you know about your readership and fans? What tools do you use to connect with them?
Marla: After I first published She’s Not There and was faced with the overwhelming task of getting it noticed, I made myself whacky trying to have a finger in every social pie. Then I downloaded a free promo book one day on marketing that really spoke to me: It advocated two things and using them well, Twitter and Blogging, rather than trying to do everything. I had already started blogging, and liked the ease of Twitter use, so since then I spend the most time working with those. I have a presence in the others, but mostly to keep up with things my friends do on them. Taking that advice and changing my focus to two things really helped.
My audience is probably about 2/3 women, and, I’m guessing, women over thirty. So I have to admit, I reach out more to other women. Also, I don’t think other authors should be eliminated from our marketing. Authors were all readers first, we need to remember that. My blog is mostly tips for other authors, with an emphasis on the older author, and occasionally I do a book review of an author in my genre, with commentary on what other authors can learn from their book.
Have any of your works been published as audiobooks, screenplays or language translations? Is it something you are planning?
Marla: No, to the second two. But I’m in the process of having She’s Not There put into audio book form. It will probably be done before the end of the year.
Have your next book mapped out? Will it continue the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn Mysteries series, or be a standalone, like your second novel?
Marla: Good question! I’ve blogged on the difficulty of writing series books because as a reader I find that their authors seem to put in too much information from the previous book, which is boring to the new reader, or not enough, leaving the reader confused and not invested in the characters.
I never planned to do a series, although, like Stephen King, I did have some character overlap in Relative Malice with She’s Not There. I am now doing them both as series for two reasons, first, because readers have mentioned wanting them in their reviews, and secondly, because of series popularity with the readers in general.
The book I’m working on now is a sequel to Relative Malice and stars Detective Kendall Halsrud again. Readers have really liked my secondary character, Brynn, so I’m having her play a bigger role in it. And, there will once more be some contact between the Milwaukee characters from She’s Not There.
So I’ll have two series going once I finish that one. Hoping to have it out by early spring, 2015.
Plan on attending any conferences or book events this year?
Marla: Not at this time, although I’m thinking about it. I’d like to find one that is close and also has workshops for writers, not just author panels. I have attended Murder and Mayhem in Muskego (now in Milwaukee) twice and may do that again because it’s not a real long drive and the workshops were very helpful.
Feel any desire to write in another genre? Maybe even just for fun, or for a charitable cause?
Marla: Funny you should ask. I just had a conversation with my son about that. He is always saying I need to write in a more popular genre, like zombies or such. I have done short stories in other genres (not about zombies!) but really prefer writing suspense, which is what I read about 95% of the time.
I think the mystery/suspense genre is timeless and covers a large audience base so it’s very unlikely I’ll change my mind.
About you, the writer…
How has your experience as a Federal Mediator impacted the design of your plots, and the language and troubles of your characters?
Marla: I think all career experience is helpful for a writer. I’ve had five different ones now, and I think they’ve all given me valuable people skills that are of great use when writing. That is one of the reasons why older authors have an easier time developing interesting characters and situations.
Self-publishing has evolved – settled down, in a way – since you published your first novel. Do you think, now that you have three novels under your belt and a strong social media presence, you would consider shopping a novel the traditional way?
Marla: No, never even consider it, Ashley. Authors whose work is picked up by a traditional publisher today, are expected to do their own marketing. Marketing is a lot of work, as all Indie authors have found out. If I’m going to have to do my own, then I don’t want to share the profits.
In addition to that deterrent, getting picked up by a traditional publisher takes a huge amount of time and effort.
What are three marketing tactics you have used that you would recommend to newly published authors?
Marla: It is really hard to recommend anything when I’m still struggling with that myself!
One thing that makes it so difficult is what works for marketing one day is obsolete the next. I think for a new author, it makes sense to join Amazon select, and take advantage of free promos and countdown promos, then advertise them as much as you can. It doesn’t work as well as it used to but it’s an easy way to get started. There is a site called Bookbooster which will promote for you when you run a free promotion, to about 40 sites for about $45. Saves a lot of time.
A lot depends on your budget too. For the most part, I’d caution against paying too much for a promotion. Often the sales results don’t cover the expense.
What is one belief, personal trait, or habit of yours that is in every story you write?
Marla: Ooh, there is a little of me in nearly all of my characters, more in some than others. All my life I’ve struggled with who I am, and I have a constant battle with my weight. I usually manage to inject some commentary into my books about women and their body image!
My female characters all are women with everyday issues like my own. I think most women readers prefer characters they can identify with rather than those that are picture perfect. For me, it’s easy to shift my own flaws onto my characters and very satisfying to watch as they overcome them.
In Trespass, my new character, Gemma Rosenthal, suffers from sleep paralysis. I have the same affliction and only in the last few years found out there was a name for it and that others suffer from it. Oddly, I’d written a free verse poem on the subject and shared that with my online audience on FanStory. Two of my readers were kind enough to let me know what it really was.